"No.6" being my sixth boat, so far
All, one at a time ( more or less) I hasten to add
I couldn't find a Nova Craft Pal 2nd hand and I certainly couldn't afford a new one at the moment, at around £1350 so I spotted a good little compromise on Monday on SoTP, a Mad River Explorer 14 in "Triple Tough" aka polythene!
I'd paddled one of these last summer for an hour or so, and in spite of the gimmicky gunwales, designed to take Mad River accessories but prone to damage and getting stuffed with sand etc, I actually quite liked the boat.
It's not the best polythene boat you can buy, that would be the Nova Craft SP3 Prospector but the Explorer 14 is a good bit lighter, due to its shorter length and for me the weight is always an issue with my boats.
Anyway I'm quite happy with it so far and to be honest, I only really need it to see me through to this time next year.
Fitting her out:
It's a constant "bone of contention" on "Song of The Paddle"; whether to fit extra flotation to boats with "inbuilt" buoyancy.
Well to me, frankly It's a no brainer I now always fit extra flotation to my boats. I've experienced for myself what its like to try to recover a capsized boat with no flotation fitted and its much easier with in my experience.
So after a bit of a faff on actually finding a pair of solid flotation wedges locally, I finally got a pair from a fairly new business up at Amble, in Northumberland: http://www.northeastkayaks.co.uk/ Unlike everywhere else I tried across the north of England, as far down as Leeds, who could;"order them in", NEkayaks actually had 2 pairs in stock!
I collected them on Tuesday and then weighed up how I wanted to fit them, slept on the project and got stuck in on Wednesday.
People often drill holes just under the gunwales and "lace" the boat, forming loops of cord which make very secure attachment points. I really don't need that sort of security as I'm not planning any big river trips, white water or really bad weather open water trips either, so I decided to go with the lighter duty option and fit "d" loops and straps.
I started by making some of my "d" loops, which I screw onto the underside of the gunwales for attaching and securing kit in the boat when paddling. I used these to secure the blocks,along with a couple of webbing straps with fastex fittings, also home made.
The first task on the boat, was to re-do the grab loop on the front and rear, tying a couple of overhand knots in the cord, outside the hull,so that I'd still have usable grab loops, once the retainer straps were fitted and tensioned, then re-tying the cord inside to form a loop for the strap to feed through.- probably sounds a lot more complicated than it is, it is tricky to tie the loop inside the boat, one handed though!
Then I put some masking tape on the underside of the gunwales;
"dry fitted" the flotation block;
Then marked the position of the blocks own "d" fittings;
drilled the holes for my "d" loops;
and fitted 3 on each side.
Then re-fitted the block and threaded the webbing strap through the grab loop and the blocks own "d" loops and my DIY loops on the gunwales, finally tightening everything up.
This is the rear block;
and the front;
and the whole thing, complete with extra "d" loops down both sides of the boat
I also fitted some "D" loops under the seats and thwarts:
using the mounting nuts and bolts to secure them in place.
This allows me to fit a length of tensioned shock cord under there, to give me storage for gloves, hats or whatever.
I'm not planning on paddling any serious white water, so I'm not going to bother fitting metal "D's" on vinyl patches to the floor. The blocks can move a little but even if the fastex clips come open or are smashed, the block still cant come completely free from the boat.
I'm quite pleased with the results.
Time wise all in all; including making the loops and straps it took about 4 hours but If I'd had the loops and straps made up ready, it would only have taken about an hour and a half.